What do you want to be when you grow up?

March 10, 2010

Remember when you were a kid and adults would ask you “What do you want to be when you grow up”? Many of us would respond with I want to be a doctor, a fireman, a nurse, a policeman, an astronaut, the president or any number of other roles we all aspired to be at one time or another as kids growing up.

Now as an operational Venture Capital partner I get to ask that same question all the time. Only instead of asking kids I ask founders and CEO’s of early and expansion stage companies that are looking for investors to raise growth capital to scale their companies.

Somewhere between early and expansion stage in every company several good things have occurred…

1.) You have released a functioning product/service that relieves a pain point in the marketplace

2.) You have paying customers

3.) You are starting to understand and build a distribution model to sell your product/service

Also, during this time because of the stress on early/expansion stage software companies to generate cash flow, many of you are also likely suffering from a bad habit I refer to as doing Anything For A Buck (AFAB).

This is when you need to ask yourself the question “What do I want to be when I grow up?” The reason this is so critical is until you actually answer this question you can’t determine what the correct strategy is to scale the company in a capital efficient manner to maximize your potential in the market place.

There are several old statements that drive this home…

The shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line…

You can’t be all things to all people…

And when you answer this question lots of good things can happen like…

1.) Product Management can focus on the right target segment for input into development
2.) Developments road map becomes clearer and more focused making it easier to achieve
3.) Marketing gets easier, they now know who to target and the types of leads to generate for sales
4.) Sales win rate goes up since all the leads they receive are qualified and easier to close
5.) Customer support’s satisfaction rating goes up and support tickets go down since the product
is built, marketed and sold to the right segment

An the list goes on and on…
As kids everybody has to grow up sooner or later and the same is true with companies… so if you have not answered the question yet, you might want to start thinking about it!

All the best!


Venture Partner

<strong>George Roberts</strong> is a Venture Partner at OpenView. He enjoys partnering with companies and helping them achieve their goals through strategy, focus and operational execution. From 1990 to 2003, George spent 13 years at Oracle Corporation, most recently having served as Executive Vice President of North American Sales. While at Oracle, George was responsible for over $1 billion in revenue and more than 2,000 employees, reporting directly to the company’s CEO and Chairman, Larry Ellison.